Whitehall is axing ties with a key independent watchdog just days after it revealed the Ministry of Defence would need to find almost £6bn worth of extra saving to achieve its 10-year equipment plan.
Last week, the National Audit Office (NAO) said the UK’s military was buying more equipment than it could afford. In its report on Friday, the NAO said the possibility of running out of available cash – budgeted money and emergency funds – was greater than at any point since 2012.
And now it has been revealed the government will no longer be using the body to oversee its most expensive defence plans. The arrangement had been in the pipeline for more than a year, with the NAO saying it oversaw the transfer. But the move has concerned armed forces campaigners and politicians.
This just seemed rather surprising given the centrality of that report normally to keeping an eye on what goes on with the most expensive equipment projects,” said Dr Julian Lewis MP, defence committee chairman.
Andy Smith, chief executive of the Portsmouth-based UK National Defence Association, said: “At a time when the MoD is being heavily criticised over poor handling of procurement it seems unwise, and perhaps even suspicious, for the ministry to be doing this.
“The NAO is an independent body and it seems to me the more independent oversight of MOD spending the better.”
Defence procurement minister Harriett Baldwin said the MoD has decided to review its budgets “internally” instead of having the NAO looking over the figures for major projects. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: Releasing the document to the House of Commons, Baldwin said that it “shows the Ministry of Defence (MOD)’s progress in delivering an affordable programme,” which is patently untrue.
Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office, said Jan 27 that “The affordability of the Equipment Plan is at greater risk than at any time since its inception,” and that “the costs of the new commitments… considerably exceed the net increase in funding for the Plan.”
Baldwin further told the committee that MoD will continue with “independent validation by the MOD’s Cost Assurance & Analysis Service…..We will continue to work openly with the NAO to demonstrate the financial robustness and affordability of the equipment plan.”)